The Hedon Blog covers communities in Hedon, East Yorkshire. Established by Ray Duffill at the beginning of last year, he has since gone on to launch the HU12 site as well. This post is part on the ongoing Hyperlocal Voices series.
Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?
I set the Hedon Blog up after being made redundant from a career in Community Development.
What made you decide to set up the blog?
The Hedon Blog was set up as a hobby to keep my ‘hand-in’ with new social media tools I’d discovered on the web whilst working in my previous job as a Community Development Manager in Blackpool.
Specifically, I wanted to find out if Hedon had any community and voluntary groups operating in the area. On the surface it seemed that very little community activity was going on in the town. That was my initial impression and a view shared by neighbours and relatives who had lived in the area much longer.
The process of setting up the blog and nurturing its development has enabled me to re-discover my home town. Hedon is no longer just the place I live – it’s a place I’m proud of and love!
When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
I set up the blog on WordPress.com. It took me two minutes to set up and think of the highly original “Hedon Blog” title.
The first post was written in February 2009. I pressed ‘publish’ and thought “What next?”. I had no plan and no real objectives or goals to aim towards. This is not a model to follow!
Using my legs, eyes and ears I explored and unearthed the ‘undiscovered country’ of a small but thriving community infrastructure in the town. I reported back on my findings on the blog. And, as the ‘word-of-mouth’ spread, then people began sending me in notices of community events and other activities in the town.
What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
Whilst working in Blackpool I had found about Nick Booth‘s (Podnosh) ‘Social Media Surgeries‘ taking place in Birmingham. Inspired by those, I made an early commitment that I would only use social-media tools that were free, easy to use and share, and that could be easily taught to others.
The internet should be about liberating community news and information. I abide by these ideas with the Hedon Blog. Any community can do what I do – you don’t need shed-loads of dosh in order to obtain an effective online voice. Having financial backing and a friendly geek obviously helps – but they are not essential.
The next major influence was Talk About Local and its first ‘un-conference’ in Stoke. From being an isolated individual I was suddenly part of a major phenomenon that involved people from across the country and the world. We even had a name for what we were doing – hyperlocal!
Adam Westbrook has been the other major influence on the blog’s development. I heard him speak and was inspired by his views on the future of journalism.
Locally, in Hull, digital developer Jon Moss has helped through setting up Hull Digital. Individuals met through this network have offered me enormous encouragement and support.
How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
I obtained Adam Westbrook’s e-book on Newsgathering for Hyperlocal Websites and now run the site as a news gathering operation.
Learning from some of the journalistic methods described in that publication has enabled me to put the blog on a professional footing and achieve a credibility in the eyes of public and private sector organisations (as well as voluntary and community groups) who now regularly supply me with press releases and other material.
In this sense I have ‘borrowed’ from the traditional media those things that can help me promote, inform and help build communities in my town.
What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
The Hedon Blog now sits as part of a wider website family under the www.hu12.net banner. This means I can concentrate community news via the Hedon Blog but now have an outlet for more contentious and controversial material – and a means to obtain some advertising income.
What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?
I have grown a local audience largely by word of mouth. In my fist month of operation I got 213 visits (WordPress stats) but get those figures and more every day now with occasional daily spikes of over 500 – 800 visits.
I never approached this from a business or journalist point of view – but rather as a civic duty or community activity. The downside of this approach is the obvious: a lack of income to re-invest in the project and to pay for its main motivating force: Me!
This activity has brought me great pleasure but has been draining on time and personal resources.